Where Will Ecosystems Go

Anthony C. Janetos

Climate-induced changes in ecosystems have been both modeled and documented extensively over the past 15—20 years. Those changes occur in the context of many other stresses and interacting factors, but it is clear that many, if not most, ecosystems are sensitive to changing climate.

Recent results from a wide range of scientific assessments shed light both on what is currently being observed in terms of the response of ecosystems to climate variability and change-related impacts, and on the degree to which the response of ecosystems can be represented in numerical models. Capabilities are improving for identifying and evaluating climate-induced changes in ecosystems in the context of changes from many other sources of environmental stress, although much needs to be learned in order to improve understanding and modeling of the dynamics of sudden or discontinuous change. With climate change continuing, an increasingly important issue is becoming the degree to which ecosystems can naturally adapt and possible measures that can be taken to enhance adaptive capacity.

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